Legal Claims for Grocery and Retail Workers During COVID-19
A directive issued by The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has told insurers to offer workers’ compensation for state-hired front-line workers such as nurses, doctors, and other public servants. Unfortunately, the directive leaves some workers out of the workers’ compensation guidance. Among them: grocery store and retail workers.
Retail and grocery store workers have emerged as some of the front-line workers in the battle with COVID-19. During stay-at-home orders and quarantine in Florida, grocery store and retail employees in Hollywood, Miami, and Homestead have been at unique risk because:
- Stores continue to be open: While many businesses are closed, retail and grocery stores continue to be open so people can get essential goods. Unfortunately, this can mean these stores are more crowded than before as people rely on cooking at home.
- Some stores have been slow to adapt changes: Some stores have installed plexiglass and have limited the number of shoppers allowed inside at one time to reduce exposure for workers. Other stores have been slow to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic or have not implemented any changes to keep workers safe.
- PPE is not always available: Personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves, can be used to reduce transmission, according to some studies. However, there is a shortage of PPE, meaning not all store employees have access. In addition, some stores have discouraged the use of PPE.
- Workers in retail environments may have fewer protections: Some workers in these environments are seasonal or part-time workers, which means they may not have benefits. They may also find wage loss benefits from worker’s compensation do not cover enough of their expenses, which can put pressure on them.
- COVID-19 can be asymptomatic: While workers can try to socially distance from anyone who appears unwell, research shows that many people who have the novel coronavirus have very mild or even no symptoms, so it can be hard for grocery store employees to avoid potential carriers.
- Testing is not always available: Tests for COVID-19 are limited and are usually reserved for the very ill and for those on the front lines. While store workers are in many ways on the front lines, they do not always have access to tests.
- Such workers have a higher risk: Grocery store employees may be delivering to people’s homes and even to the homes of people who have the COVID-19 virus, putting the workers at risk. There have also been instances of customers purposely coughing on retail workers or spitting on them, which can mean a higher risk of transmission.
Currently, there is uncertainty about the options for grocery store workers. It is possible chains and stores will argue they increased pay and responded appropriately. However, there may also be legal remedies or even class action lawsuits.
If you have contracted COVID-19 while working for a grocery or retail store, document your exposure and the details of your experience. Write down anything you can remember and take photos. Also, contact Flaxman Law Group at 1-866-352-9626 (1-866-FLAXMAN) for a free consultation with a Hollywood personal injury attorney. If you are in South Florida, our virtual consultations can be a cost-free and obligation-free way to find out whether you have a claim.